The inspiration for this week’s post comes from another post, a few months back (A Day in the Life) where I chronicled in excruciating detail my week at home as a vicious virus ran rampant through my family. We each fell in succession to a 24-hour stomach bug. It wasn’t so much the vomiting and diarrhea that was torturous.
It was the extended experience, as each day, someone else became sick and went through the heaving motions. Trying to make it through the isolation, boredom and anxiety of that week, I began madly crafting at my table, creating what I thought was a pretty cool felted bead necklace for a friend’s 40th birthday. I also developed my new personal mantra:
Well, as they say, Life imitates Art….
Just as I was wondering what to do for West Twin’s upcoming post ( I was thinking a sort of call-and-response piece to East Twin’s excellent ode to buying local, the North Carolina Gift Guide, but featuring Sacto artisans) another bout of stomach flu hit my family and I found myself experiencing major Déjà vu….
But it was not just illness keeping me caught up and locked up in my house. I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but the last few weeks have been incredibly challenging and stressful.
Oh the Stress! Car failed smog. Family Court paperwork and child support drama. Thank-you cards left unwritten on the table since the kids’ birthday. Emails unanswered. Christmas shopping undone. Food shopping a grudging necessity. Personal struggles and betrayals in the school community. The list goes on and on. And for the sake of artistic licence, let me also weave in the pressures of those nearest and dearest to me: steaming car radiators, looming deadlines, chicken pox and the death of an estranged parent. We all seemed to be bearing a load that was just too much, and exchanged many a phone call and FB post in empathy with one another.
So amidst this swirl of pressures and impossible demands, I do the only thing that makes sense to me:
Drop everything, and craft.
Luckily, two kids at two schools – both with Winter Fair celebrations( one weekend after another) – gave me plenty of reason to sit around and make shit.
Saturday December 4th, saw the Winter Faire at Alice Birney Waldorf Inspired School. In the weeks leading up to it parents were invited to “craft and conversation” sessions – where a craft is demonstrated, supplies are provided, the children are kept occupied and all one has to do is sit and do handwork for a couple of hours in good company, creating inventory for “Illuminations” – the school store.
The few sessions I attended were a lot of fun and some of the things I worked on turned out so cute that I ended up buying them on the day of the faire!
I even led a craft and conversation session (a first for me) after being asked by the organizers to bring an easy-to-replicate craft to share with others. I was very nervous, and slightly ashamed of my simple idea – upcycling old sweaters into little stuffed bird dolls.
But the session seemed to be a great success and the resulting flock of rag-tag birdies were SO awesome!!
So, the day of the faire arrived, but by then so had the stomach flu.
With the third kid down, I managed to escape the house only for an hour or so but I hit the vendors with a vengeance, hoping to kick-start my holiday shopping. There were great things everywhere but I kept coming back to admire the handiwork of us parents, as featured in the Illuminations store.
A favorite item of mine were these fabric wrapped headbands, masterminded by another kindergarten parent Nicole Carrillo.
Hmmm…I thought. I could make some of those.
I headed home and got to work.
Last year, for the Winter Faire at Camellia Waldorf School, I got all philanthropic and sat around crafting for months beforehand; hand-sewing upcycled legwarmers, armwarmers and hotwater bottle covers from old sweaters, to sell to raise money in support of the school. My dining room table was transformed into a version of Santa’s workshop and my DIY brand “Little Mama Industries” was born.
Although the booth was a great success and I sold almost everything I made, this year I scaled my production WAY back and decided to do only headbands which were fun, and easy to embellish. Still, little mama industries dominated my dining table and fabric scraps and sweaters bits became a permanent feature of my living room carpet.
Oh, and did I mention The Children’s Store? This is a sweet tradition offered at both school’s Winter Fair. A room is transformed into a country store of wonderful handmade goodies and only children can go in (no grown-ups allowed except the shopping assistants and the cashiers inside). The kids love to go in on their own and use tickets to buy little gifts for their families…or in my kids case, shop mostly for themselves.
At Camellia, the expectation is that each parent donate 10 units of a single item towards the inventory of the store. Although it’s not required, because it’s a Waldorf school there is a tendency of the parents (myself included) to slave over 10 little hand-made gnomes or acorn babies or whatnot. This year, already inundated with my own crafting projects I stopped by The Dollar Tree instead, picked up a 10-pack of chintzy snowflake ornaments and flashed ’em up.
Stuck at home one Saturday morning, I cut out christmasey pictures from my old Martha Stewart Living magazines and ‘repackaged’ the snowflakes by attaching them to these backdrop cards. I thought they turned out pretty good!
And…always an overachiever, I did whip up a gnome or two in my spare time.
Finally, the day of Winter Faire #2 arrived. Yesterday, (December 11th) Camellia Waldorf School held their 22nd annual Winter Faire.
Months ago, during the relative calm of Fall, I agreed to create the costume and set for the King winter photo booth. The idea was that people would pay a couple of tickets to get their photo taken with King Winter, who this year would be played by my own lovely husband Keith.
Caught up in another week of seasonal and domestic stress, I hadn’t really done much in preparation for this. But a day or two beforehand I got busy on it, and Friday night I showed up for set-up with a bag of glittery props from the dollar store and a couple of hot glue guns. Backed up by the support of some other creative friends, we knocked it out.
And you know what? It turned out great!! Keith was an amazing King Winter. The set was beautiful to behold and photographed really well, as you can see in these awesome pics by my Dad, who was the dedicated babysitter for my kids all day, while Keith and I held down King Winter’s court.
And my headbands did pretty well too! I added them last-minute to the Camellia ‘community table’ with stuff by other crafting parents (thanks to those who staffed the table ALL day). I sold seven out of a total of twelve, which if I’ve done my math right means I sold 60% of my inventory! Not bad.
Of course, there were all kinds of artisans, vendors, and talented parents selling their wares. I didn’t get to see half the stuff but enough to know that there are some damn crafty people in our midst, no doubt toiling away in their living rooms, bedrooms or if they are lucky, craft rooms; coming up with great ideas and creating sweet gift items for love or money.
They too, are ignoring the other pressing demands of life such a laundry and cleaning the cat box, in favor of creativity, self-expression and the sanity provided by the satisfaction of making something beautiful with one’s hands.
It puts me in mind of this button, given to me by my friend Amy (of Murphy and Gert fame), a seriously crafty lady herself. I keep it pinned to the inside of my jacket lapel, away from the children’s eyes, flashing it only to those others in the know; those who get it; those who understand the restorative value of creative work: my crafty comrades-in-arms.